Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Monk Alone: The Complete Solo Studio Recordings of Thelonious Monk 1962-1968
Genres: Jazz, Pop
Fact: Thelonious Monk is one of the most important composers--jazz or otherwise--of this century. Not only did Monk help invent the music we now call be-bop, but he also introduced jazz music to the avant-garde, setting th... more »
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Fact: Thelonious Monk is one of the most important composers--jazz or otherwise--of this century. Not only did Monk help invent the music we now call be-bop, but he also introduced jazz music to the avant-garde, setting the table for a tradition unmatched in American music. Monk's legacy is unquestioned and his melodies echo through almost every genre of music to this day. Yet one thing Thelonious never got enough credit for was his piano playing. Monk developed a halting, stop-start style as unique and singular as his compositions. While melodies seemed to drop from Monk's fingers, he also spiced his tunes with left-field plinks and plunks, blistering right-handed runs and thunderous left handed slams. On Monk Alone: The Complete Solo Studio Recordings of Thelonious Monk 1962-1968, a two-CD collection, the genius of Monk is plainly evident. Monk can ache with what he called "ugly beauty" while also adding his own inventions to standards. The highlight of this collection, besides the wonderful liner notes and detailed discographic info, are 14 previously unreleased tracks, including alternate takes of Monk masterpieces like "Ruby, My Dear," "Introspection," and "Ask Me Now." A must-have. --S. Duda
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Stephen A. Smith | Boston, MA | 05/21/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When Richard Cook and Brian Morton reviewed this set for their Penguin Guide to Jazz, they wrote: "This is an essential purchase, uncategorizable and resistant to the adjectival attentions of critics." I agree completely.
A lot has been said about this music, and about its value and appeal. I think most critics miss the point. You can't compare this to solo recordings by Bill Evans or Oscar Peterson. There's no point of reference. This is thick, heavy music. It isn't meant to be played for an hour, straight through. It's something else.
Sit down with a pair of headphones, and play two or three tracks. Come back tomorrow, and play a couple more. That's the only way to listen to this music. There's incredible depth and dimension here, and you'll discover new beauty on each pass. This isn't water, and it sure as hell isn't beer. It's Blue Label scotch. It's meant for slow sipping.
Monk was unique. He was a genius, but he was also on a completely different wavelength. I would never disparage albums like the It Club -- but there's no question Monk was at his best when sitting alone at a piano, unfettered by the burden of bandmates. The result was his vision, pure and unfiltered, and music which easily stands beside Bach and Beethoven."
Sparse setting, but haunting beauty that grows on you...
William E. Adams | Midland, Texas USA | 07/04/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Quick now, do you really think you'll like two hours and twenty minutes of SOLO piano by anybody? If anybody can pull it off, it's Monk. He makes each note distinct, and does not waste any. Quirky yet lovely, most of his time here on this double CD is spent at medium or slow tempo. I thought I liked his accompanied work much better, at first. But as you listen to these songs, they do indeed become endearing. If as some reviewers say, his earlier Riverside box of solo work is even better, it must be really something. I have eight or nine Monk CD's now, and I have enjoyed them all and don't want to weed any from my collection. As a bonus here, "Monk Alone" has an excellent booklet. Read half-a-dozen reviews here, check your music budget, and take the plunge. Although I'm 58, I've only been immersed in Monk and John Coltrane for two years. It's about damn time, and I have enjoyed both artists tremendously. I wish I had been hip enough to have been a fan when I was young and they were still alive. I grew up less than an hour from NYC, where these two played in clubs regularly. When I had dough, I went to Broadway shows instead of jazz clubs. At the time, I thought that was the smarter use of my limited funds, but from the viewpoint of upper middle age, I wish I had been a bit more adventurous. Thank goodness, at least we have the discs, to know what we missed."
Great and sometimes difficult music that grows on you.
Clare Quilty | a little pad in hawaii | 10/13/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a big collection of Monk solo material, culled from his Columbia tenure and the albums "Monk's Dream," "Criss Cross," "It's Monk's Time," "Straight, No Chaser" and the rarity, "Always Know." It also contains every song on the "Solo Monk" LP as well as 14 unreleased tracks and rejected takes, many of which will only be of interest to collectors and completists.
Some reviewers have said that this stuff doesn't catch Monk during his peak period, that he doesn't have the spark he possessed during his Riverside period. And I would totally agree with that. But at the same time, I find that the limitations and obstructions he faced deepen this music to a degree. If one wants snap and polish, I think "Alone in San Francisco" is the choice to make (and, to my knowledge though I could be completely wrong, that's the only Riverside album currently available that's composed entirely of solo performances). If one wants an introduction to Monk's music, I'd suggest "Plays Duke Ellington" or one of the Blue Note releases.
But if you want to hear what becomes of a master, and you have the patience to let a big collection of music grow on you, "Monk Alone" is worth the time and effort.
It took me a while to fit into this collection. But I think it's good music to be alone with, it's just you and him. I like to work and write to this music, it's intense but quiet. It's the sound of an artist laboring by himself.